When the Boston Celtics' Reggie Lewis died of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) during a playoff game against the Charlotte Hornets in 1993, he was only 27 years old.
As startling as such a sudden cardiac death (SCD) is, according to the Cleveland Clinic there are 325,000 SCDs annually in the United States. And they happen frequently to people in their mid-30s to mid-40s.
When researchers looked at 19 years' worth of data on 21,000 people ages 45 and older — more than half of whom lived in the southeastern U.S. — they discovered that folks who regularly ate a Southern-style diet had a 46% higher risk of SCD than those who ate it infrequently.
The Southern-style diet was defined as having unhealthy fats, fried foods, eggs, organ meats (such as liver or giblets), processed meats (such as deli meats, bacon, and hot dogs), and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Sounds like a lot of America. In fact, the average American downs 18 pounds of bacon and 39 gallons of soda a year.
You may know that an unhealthy menu can clog your arteries and increase your heart attack and stroke risk, but you may not have known it could lead to SCA, which is caused when the heart's electrical system malfunctions, reducing blood flow to the body and brain.
This is one more reason to adopt a Mediterranean diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and legumes, with very little meat and dairy. The researchers found that those food choices cut the risk of SCD by 26%.